A photograph…a body…a man…bare torsoed…covered with polythene…a singular hole in the chest…Death’s sting…lying on snow…two uniformed men by the side…a green paramilitary vehicle in the background.
A girl, six-something, in school, unaware of the meaning of Death, circulating this image in the class (which her teacher confiscated) – image of her father killed in action in Kashmir.
(My Mom was her teacher and she showed me the photograph – got etched forever in my mind as a symbol for the dispute in Kashmir)
I had a heated exchange with a long-time friend about the truth of the world. Incidentaly this person has not lived in India for more than seven years of his twenty-seven ; and so its not surpising that he be a patron of Indian culture – but he goes further – he’s a staunch RSS supporter and preaches Sanatan Dharma as the core ingredient of the condiment we call Indian culture. And that of a person working on cutting edge technology in the Silicon Valley,sounded quite novel.
The exchange followed due to the misconception that I was one of the Westernised, cynical Indians- raring to move West – the conclusion he jumped into when I divulged my atheist nature and my support for the (West-originated) philosophies of subjectivity (Ayn Rand) and existentialism.
I had to final shout that I was not Westernised, neither Indianised nor Orientalised.( I had to tell him that Sanskrit was my favorite language). I told him that I eclecticly picked whatever was the best of all religions,cultures,races. I told him that I was out of the Matrix – while most people in the world still were not.
I was aware of the truth of my statements only later – Wachowski’s movie gives voice to the malaise which has run amok in humankind and all violence we see around us is directly or indirectly attributable to the existence of the Matrix – or rather the Matrices.
Let me explain – there is hardly a thing called an unbiased opinion or account of anything – my friend accused me of reading history that was written by the West and so biased heavily against Hindutva.I asked him what history to read – Ramayana – Upnishads – they say they are the centre of the world – they and nobody else – its biased against West, or East or north or south – they donot take into account even the ‘existence’ of other races, cultures in ‘Satyuga’ – they finally claim that all that is diverse now has descended from Hindutva.My friend disputed the Aryan invasion theory – I guess what he had in mind was cross-Aryan invasion – the influx of Sanskrit speakers into West.
The point is ‘who do you believe’. I was an extremely gullible person once – believed everything that was told to me – so many people started telling me so many things – totally contradicting each other – that I had no peace of mind – till I decided not to trust anyone – you tell me what you think and I’ll see whether I want to accept it or not- the Self is my Supreme Court – so I decided I won’t be part of any Group that strives to become a Matrix. They want you to believe in what they want and not what you want.Your right and wrong is decided by the Matrix rather than by you yourself.Of course there can be well-intended Matrices as well – the Mission of Charity by Mother Teresa is one example – the Matrix of Compassion.
But most are ill-founded and ill-intended – but the ‘Nodes’ of the Matrix never see that truth – they transform into Agent Smith-s- the Jihad Matrix, the Hndutva MAtrix, the Nazi (and neo-Nazi) Matrix, the Marxist Matrix (which is the most unabashed one – they kill the self completely – the Jihad Matrix does so only physically), the ‘Jesus-loves-you’ Matrix.
Every morning you wake up and you run into Agents – everything said by everyone is intended at making you believe what they believe.
I wake up and see my landlady – she says that I live in the best , the most comfortable house on the Planet,I switch on TV – an ad tells me that their product is number one (many competitors do that as well for the SAME PRODUCT),I goto to one news channel – they say that a ‘professor has been beaten to death’ I go to another and they say ‘a professor dies of stress and heart-attack’ both channel claim to broadcast only truth – the list is just enless- every moment of the day someone is metamorphising into Agent Smith for his Matrix.
I have a long standing joke wth my former room-mates – everytime we used to go house-hunting – and we would ask someone on street whether there was a house to be let – he immediately transforms into an Agent Smith – just like in the movie – he leaves his original occupation (vending vegetables , tailoring are all true examples) – all transform into a realtor – and would be desirous of Something when the deal is done.
Ofcourse ,all I am talking of could be bull-shit to you – I am no Agent Smith. Please let me know what you think by putting comments.
It was sometime in 1985 or '86 – and I was just five or six when I found myslelf hoisted in the arms of a Pakistani Ranger – I was in India and the person who carried me affectionately, stood in Pakistan.That singular memory is something I've treasured all these years – at the border in R.S.Pura sector of Jammu (this was close to the northernmost tip of our undisputed border with Pakistan- some 200 km to the north it would turn into be the blood spatterred LoC). I sometimes find it difficult to believe the truth behind this memory – could it be true ? or is my memory playing tricks – many of my father's collegues would have killed those of the person who was holding me and vice versa – could my father trust me in those hands.Particularly in those troubled times – Gen Zia was ruling there – Indira had been killed here.
I find it quite difficult to understand that we ,from all diverse parts of India were responsible of protecting the border between the people who had more cultural similarities between themselves than with us.It was like building a huge wall in your ancestral Haveli and employing a Gurkha to protect you from your brother on the other side of the wall.
Now I realize there really is a sense of oneness between the two nations separated by half a century of distrust.Of shared history – of marauding invaders from Cetral Asia of emissaries from East – none had said India – Pakistan – we're one culture – one history. Is this dispute ever going to get settled – will this border marked by blood ever fade into an amber of hope – if not vanish completely.